07/30/15 Rituals or Relationship?

READING: Isaiah 49-53

TEXTS AND APPLICATION: I suppose I need to be honest here. Sometimes believers, beginning with me, go through the motions of Christianity more than truly live Christianity. Such was the situation for the Hebrews in Isaiah 58. God told Isaiah to announce their sin like a trumpet blaring (Isaiah 58:1) — apparently because they needed a loud wake up call. Listen to His words to them:

1.  They do the right things and say the right words. 
Isaiah 58:2  They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”

2. But, their religious rituals — particularly, fasting, were only that: religious rituals. The people were inauthentic in their faith, assuming they could manipulate God by going through their motions. 

Isaiah 58:3-4  “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!” “Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.”

In essence, the people thought their religion was a means to an end: if they followed the right rituals, God would be obligated to do their bidding. What they failed to realize is that God cannot be manipulated. He will not be used by a people who talk religious lingo and do religious stuff, but who then live in such a way that they oppress others and cause dissension. The God of the Bible expects our faith to be genuine, evident, and life-transforming. A true relationship with Him recognizes that rituals are not enough. 

These texts remind me that one way to evaluate my walk with God is to ask, “Do I get frustrated with God when I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but still He does not respond to me?” If so, it might be that I’m depending more on rituals than on a relationship. I might need a trumpet-blaring wake up call.

PRAYER: Let’s pray together today for an honest evaluation of our Christian walk. Pray that our relationship with God would be genuine and deep — so deep, in fact, that we could trust Him even when He seems not to respond to our faithful observance of our rituals. 













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